Hamstring Safety - A Quick Overview
By Bigger Faster Stronger
The Hamstrings consist of three powerful muscles in the back of the upper thigh: the Biceps Femoris, the Semitendinosus and the Semimembranosus. Injury prevention of the Hamstrings depends on two factors. First, you must make all three Hamstring muscles from origin to insertion very strong. Second, you must develop great flexibility by vigorous stretching of the Hamstring muscles and tendons.
Hamstrings: Primary Exercises
Image 1 - The Glute-Ham Raise: This exercise is done on a special machine called the Glute-Ham Developer. It strengthens the entire Hamstring muscle area from origin to insertion. Do at least two sets of ten repetitions at least twice per week. You can do up to 25 reps on this exercise with good results. This is more important than Leg Curls for the Hamstrings. Consider the Glute-Ham Raise to be a top priority Auxiliary exercise which can also help strengthen the lower back. In addition, the Glute-Ham Raise can help an athlete run faster and jump higher.
Image 2- Lunges: Take a long step as shown when doing “athletic” Lunges. This type of Lunge develops “Power Balance”. Do at least two sets of ten repetitions twice per week. Do not lean forward but “be tall” with the lower back locked-in tight and with the eyes focused straight ahead. The back knee should be about one-inch from the floor for best results. A straight bar or dumbbells may be used. Do a Standard Lunge (return to original position) once per week and the other day of the week do Walking Lunges. Do two sets of ten repetitions. A top priority Auxiliary exercise.
Hamstring Safety: Squats
Image 3 - The Parallel Squat: Parallel Squats, when done correctly, create a coordinated maximum summation of force which develops the Hamstrings, Glutes and Quads in a real-life functional process. If you do not go down to at least parallel, you will create an imbalance of strength ratio between the Hamstrings and Quads. Squatting high makes for strong Quads and weak Hamstrings. This is asking for potential Hamstring injury problems. This is a top priority Bigger Faster Stronger Core lift. This multi-joint lift is the “King” of all exercises.
Image 4 - The Front Squat: Front Squats, when done correctly, can perhaps develop the Hamstrings even better than Parallel Squats. Normally, the lifter can maintain a slightly more upright position which means more Hamstring development. Proper technique requires the athlete to “be tall” and to “spread the chest”. Lock-in the lower back for safety. Front Squats are one of several top choices for a Squat Variation in the Bigger Faster Stronger program.
Hamstrings: Other Exercises
Image 5 - Leg Curls: This is perhaps the most common exercise done by athletes to strengthen the Hamstrings. However, doing just Leg Curls is not the entire answer for Hamstring injury prevention - far from it. Do Leg Curls twice per week with two to three sets of ten repetitions. They should be done in a slow and controlled manner - jerking is prohibited. Leg Curls should be considered an Auxiliary exercise. They also help strengthen the knee joint area.
Image 6 -Hex Bar: This exercise can build a solid foundation of strength from a half squat position which affects the Hamstrings, Quads, Hips and Lower Back. The Hex Bar exercise builds functional Hamstring jumping strength. Therefore, a jump stance should be used. Keep the hips down and the head up. Spread the chest to lock-in the lower back. Do once or twice per week. This is a Bigger Faster Stronger Core Lift exercise. For back safety, lightly bounce the weight off the floor when doing reps. Keep the repetitions to five or less.
Image 7 - A. The Hamstring Stretch: The BFS One-On-The-Bench exercise is the best Hamstring stretch. This can be done on a bench, couch or with a team in the bleachers. Be tall with the stretch leg in front. The leg should be straight with the knee locked. The foot should be perfectly straight with the toes brought back not forward. Try to lock-in the lower back and look straight ahead. Now, pull your entire body forward. Do not try to put your chin on your knee. Do this hard with intensity for a total of thirty seconds with each leg. An absolute must everyday. This also improves Speed and Jumping Power!
Image 8 - B. The Straight Leg Dead Lift: Do Straight Leg Dead Lifts with very light weight with the dual purpose of stretching and strengthening the Hamstrings and the Glutes at the same time. High school to pro athletes should use between 65-95 pounds and then progress slowly to 135 pounds. The maximum for advanced lifters is 40% of their Parallel Squat max. Do this exercise in a very slow and controlled manner with the chin up and knees locked. Do two to three sets of 10 repetitions two to three times per week. The Straight Leg Dead Lift should be a high priority Auxiliary exercise. It will also help you run faster and jump higher.